The Longworth-Anderson Series, a relatively new entry in the Cincinnati music scene, “features nationally recognized performers in the intimacy of the freshly-renovated Memorial Hall. This exciting, annual series features contemporary artists from a variety of musical genres including Americana, bluegrass, blues, country, folk, indie rock, jazz, pop and world music. Events that are part of the series provide an entire evening of entertainment including pre- and post-show concert receptions that feature light bites, dessert and beer & wine tastings from popular Cincinnati restaurants, craft beer brewers and wine distributors.”
The series features, among others, Sarah Watkins, Sarah Jarosz, Marty Stewart and Mavis Staples. The season sponsor is the Carol Ann and Ralph V Haile Jr. Foundation.
The series also brought to town last night Los Lobos. That ageless, genre defying Mexican-American band from East LA.
The show was, on paper and at face value, a gamble. One could have slapped down forty-five dollars and things could have gone horribly wrong for any number of reasons. First, Los Lobos is a time honored band. Over their forty years they’ve thrown down with the best of them. Their pedigree and style is not normally associated with the words light bites and dessert.
The crowd was also, if not problematic, then certainly fraught with peril. Given that the crowd was neatly split between aging bearded tatted and beer bellied rockers; and neatly dressed (North Face and Patagonia gear) suburban wanders looking for a good show in a safe venue, with maybe a little dessert (basically the same crowd you’d see at an XU basketball game), the response to the show could have been, well, lame or at best lukewarm.
And to be honest, the band itself was clear hurdle to a solid rocking night. Short their long time bass player Conrad Lozano and lacking the always charismatic and ex Blaster Steve Berlin, Los Lobos, looks, today, like a vintage Lo-Rider that is no longer beautiful nor fast. The band has never been a collection of whilish dervishes on stage, but they’ve grown increasingly static with each successive tour.
David Hildago does not look good. Luis Perez looks good, but every one of his years. Cesar Rosas remains Cesar (thank God), but no one is going to card him for beer any time soon.
There are songs which have been undoubtedly stricken from the concert list because the band just doesn’t have the vocal chops to get them them (Good Morning Aztlan). There were undoubtedly more than a few people- myself included- who went to see the show because it could be their last tour. The obit tour.
And the show did start off on a stilted note. The insistence of taking of group photo, from the stage- with tripod no less- after a very long, angular and uninformed introduction, was both pointless and annoying.
Fortunately, it all came together. Relying on trademark harmonies between Ceasar and Hildago, while bringing a blistering three guitar and a bass blues attack, atop a younger and muscular rhythm section; Los Lobos played a nearly two hour set which was at times blistering, sometimes joyous and once or twice a little strange. Don’t bury them because they ain’t dead yet.
When not regaling the crowd with favorites that were played to such perfection they demanded audience accompaniment, if not tears (Neighborhood, How Will The Wolf Survive and Evangeline); the Wolves also freely audibled. Some of the shows very best moments, in fact weren’t even on the set list (which is on my desk).
Late into the set, the the band called out a six minute joyous version of Bertha which was arguably the apex of the show. Off the board choice Volver was similarly lovely. Turns out one need not cavort and nor jump from loudspeakers to play the hell out of a fender Stratocaster or Les Paul.
I say Bertha was arguably the apex of the show because the band,which clearly appreciated the adoration it received from the raucous crowd, took a hard left turn for it’s first encore, blessing the crowd with a hot and sweet knuckle-ball version of Neil Young’s Cinnamon Girl; which was followed by a Chuck Berry cum Buddy Holly instrumental segue way which ultimately resolved itself in a mash up of La Bamba/Good Lovin (Rascals) which was played with such clear affection that even the band’s ancient chestnut sounded fresh.
In the end, everyone, band, crowd and producers acquitted themselves in a jubilant manner. Toss in the three dollar Mad Trees- sold in one of the best pre-show bars in the city- and it all made for a fiery and damn happy evening for everyone in a very beautiful venue.